Families Entrenched in Technology

Technology has worked its way into the daily lives of both parents and children. A study conducted by Nickelodeon, “The Digital Family,” finds technology adoption in the family is both top down and bottom up.

Families use technology to fulfill functional needs as much as for recreation. More than half (59 percent) of parents find the Internet helps them get things done. Sixty-eight percent of parents believe the Internet makes them more efficient and self-sufficient. As for kids, 85 percent use the Internet to help them do better in school; 93 percent said it helps them learn things; 89 percent said the Internet helps them be more creative; and 75 percent said it makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something.

Parents spend an average of 33 hours per month using the Internet. Kids aged 8-14 spend over 19 hours per month online. Seventy-one percent of children in the 8-14 age group use the Internet. Broken down further, 58 percent of children ages 8 and 9 go online; 70 percent of kids 10 and 11 use the Internet; and 82 percent of teens ages 12-14 use the Web. Kids’ Web adoption correlates to verbal language skills reached in the fourth and fifth grades, according to Marsha Williams, SVP of brand and consumer insights at Nickelodeon.

A component of the study involved a 10-day deprivation from various screens. When kids gave up the Internet, many noticed schoolwork became a bigger challenge. Parents had to help children by taking them to the library and sometimes conducting the research on the Internet for their children. In most cases, more time was required to complete homework assignments.

When mothers gave up the computer screen, the experience left them “annoyed and greatly inconvenienced.” Many experienced compromised self-sufficiency and lack of control. They often had to compensate with to-do lists, and many experienced lost time. The Internet’s ability to research and manage tasks and activities makes to-do lists unnecessary. One mother who took part in the Internet deprivation study commented, “I just didn’t realize how much [the Internet] was a part of my family.”

The emergence of technology has made skills previously deemed necessary obsolete. Being a good speller is no longer felt necessary by 27 percent of parents and 21 percent of kids. Twenty-six percent of parents and 25 percent of kids believe it’s no longer necessary to be able to use a printed dictionary. The use of sites like MapQuest and Google Maps makes 20 percent of parents and 21 percent of kids think map skills on paper are no longer necessary. Williams said every generation has a set of skills and tasks that becomes obsolete.

Nickelodeon derived its findings from three studies, “Living in a Digital World Project,” “U.S. Multicultural Kids Study,” and “Nickelodeon’s Wireless Study,” each conducted in 2006. Additional data were provided by Nielsen Media Research. Data collection methods included interviews with kids aged 7-14 in friendship pairs, focus group discussions with parents, and telephone surveys of 1,083 kids and 1,061 parents.

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